-- Wine Reviews

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Wine columnist, journalist, wine educator, and wine competition judge Von Hurson has spent 18 years in the wine industry.

Her passion for all things having to do with wine has put her on a wine path leading from the tasting room to events coordinator, public relations, marketing, working in vineyards and making wine.

In addition to serving as a wine judge for various wine competitions, her enthusiasm for sharing wine knowledge led her to create and instruct wine education classes featuring wine component and aroma analysis, wine and food pairing, grape growing and wine making.

She also contributes a monthly wine column for the Petaluma Post and is co-author of Celebrate Petaluma; her focus being on the Sonoma County wine industry, past and present.

Having an insatiable thirst for yet more wine knowledge Von now holds a WSET Advanced level certificate. She is on the board of the German Wine Society and is a long time member of the Confrerie de St. Vincent Mācon, a French wine brotherhood.

Have a comment or question? Email Von: wynelady (at) sonic (dot) net

The Art of Wine

19 July 2012

Ah, what a world! I've learned that with wine, you'll never know what undiscovered path will present itself . beckoning you to follow. And why not? Resistance is futile. Wine ... beautiful to behold, an exploration to sniff, and an adventure to sip. Who would have thought wine could be so esoteric?

Those of .a certain age. will recall a 1960's Judy Collins song . .Both Sides Now. and what could be more perfect? I can lift a verse from the song and with just a slight tweak, make it fit perfectly: .I've looked at wine from both sides now . from white to red, and still somehow....It's wine's illusions I recall. I really don't know wine at all.. It's true. The more I know about wine, the more I realize there's so much more to discover and I want to know more and more.

Just last month, the concept behind the song became evident as I found myself lured to two very different seminars and two very different ways of looking at wine. Wine viewed through two different lenses . literally and figuratively.

One view was very .now." Call it the science of wine . making use of modern-day technology to correct wine defects and adjust the various components that make wine what it is. More on this later. The other view was quite literally looking at wine as art . microscopic images seen in a drop of wine. Fascinating!

A quick story. When I first started working at Rodney Strong Vineyards many long years ago, I remember the winery sold hats, shirts and other products . all with the slogan The Art of Wine. How appropriate, I thought. In fact, that's how I came to view wine . as art. Think about it. You have the .art. of the vine and it's offspring, the grape. Then there's the art of the winemaker . with the trade tools of an artist. Instead of paints and brushes . there's yeasts and barrels. And most important of all . the blend. You might call this the winemakers ultimate art . being able to blend wine from different barrels, sometimes combining different varietals. It's actually much like the blending of paints and colors, with the goal of both, wine and art, being to create something wonderful..

And the comparisons work . it's true. But it gets better. Can you imagine my delight when I found the wine / art connection is provable? Let me explain.

I attended a presentation by scientist, Sondra Barrett, PhD, who has been creating some amazing art from dried drops of wine, viewed at 30x magnification, through the eye of an interference light microscope. What fun to discover that there's some amazing stuff happening on the cellular level of wine, and that the visual shapes actually mirror the palate sensations of the wine! That's right. The art forms that appear under the microscope actually .look. very much like what you .feel. in your mouth (mouthfeel) from a wine you just sipped. Young wines look different (sharper, more elongated and angular) than aged ones (smoother, rounder, more complex). A Sauvignon Blanc, with crisper acidity, looks different, than an oaked Chardonnay with malolactic fermentation.

Even more interesting is that the resulting art-image reflects more of the wine's style than the varietal, or the vineyard. A merlot from one producer didn't just taste different than a merlot from another . it actually looked very, very different.

Moving on from Wine-Art, however, we enter another wine-dimension . the world of Science, pure and simple, where we find a unique commercial laboratory . a haven for both the home winemaker (garagiste) who makes only a few cases, to the professional who makes thousands of cases. The lab can test wines, consult, offer products to correct problems and turn the wine into almost anything the winemaker wants it to be! Truly, the sheer scope of what they can offer, and do, is mind-boggling.

This is where winemakers can take their wines for lab analysis and get advice on ways to .adjust. their wine-child. Want to increase aromas, soften the acids or tannins in your wine, enhance mouthfeel, change balance and complexity? Want to remove cork taint (TCA), sulfur compounds or volatile acidity? And how about Microbiology services to detect off odors and flavors and fix them before you find them in a bottle of wine? Yes, with specialized products a winemaker can literally reconstruct a wine! It's a bit like science fiction . being able to create a wine in the image of a First Growth Bordeaux or a California cult wine.

So is there a conclusion to be drawn here? Is winemaking an art or a science? I now have proof that it's a blend of both. In the hands of a talented winemaker who makes skillful use of the remarkable amount of tools available to him, wine can be all the more beautiful and exciting.


© Von Hurson, 2012, all rights reserved

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